The Outpost Office: How International Law Firms Approach the China Market
28 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2015 Last revised: 18 Jun 2015
Date Written: December 15, 2014
How are international law firms faring in China? Drawing on 2013 data, this article presents the first comprehensive overview of the field, including information about the global mix of players and variation in market niche. Three variables — years present in China, global strategy, and the level of localization — help explain why some China practices grow bigger than others. Overall, however, there is a great deal of convergence on one business model: an outpost office with a median size of eleven lawyers responsible for under five percent of worldwide revenue. The common experience of stagnation following initial excitement about market entry illustrates the strength of hype, the constraints of partnership, and the ongoing power of the Chinese state to shape the legal services market. At the same time, the rarity of exit reflects perceptions that a China presence is a valuable symbol of global commitment and a worthwhile bet on future growth.
Keywords: Lawyers, globalization, China
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